And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40; read Matthew 25:31-46)
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible titles this story, “The Judgment of the Nations.” While this is one important perspective, I believe it misses the point that Jesus was actually trying to make. In the earlier parable of the bridesmaids, the focus was on the importance of being prepared and ready. The parable of the servants and the talents focused on the importance of obedience and trustworthiness. Preparedness and obedience result in action – the story of the sheep and the goats is a parable about how we are to treat God’s “family.” All the people on this earth are related – related to God, related to Christ, and by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, we are related to each other. We are family (with all the joys, struggles, challenges, and celebrations that entails).
Think for a moment of the least acceptable person you can imagine. How do they look? How do they behave? How are they dressed? How do they smell? How uncomfortable do they make you? Hold that person in mind. That person is Jesus in God’s eyes. How you treat that person, what you say to that person, what you do to or for that person – you are saying and doing these things to Jesus!
In our current culture, some people spend a large amount of time deciding who is acceptable and who is not; who is good and who is evil; who belongs and who does not. God has no patience for such hurtful and damaging thinking. Those people are relegated to the outer darkness and eternal punishment. Who receives God’s favor? Those who love, those who care, those who welcome, those who visit, and those who give.
Sheep and goats all need God’s love, but more importantly, we all need to understand that God IS love (1 John 4:8). Those who do not love, who cannot love, who reject love, do great harm both to others as well as themselves. Matthew makes the point through his use of Jesus’ parables and teachings that selfishness and judgmentalism is the root of all sin. When we deny God’s love to our spiritual siblings, we deny this love to Jesus.
Love isn’t as hard as we sometimes try to make it. We all have loved ones. The challenge and invitation of God is to continuously expand our circle of loved ones to include all the children of God on earth. And we do not ever do this alone. By the power of the Holy Spirit we produce the love of God in abundance. Those who truly know God are never selfish sharing God’s love and grace. Thanks be to God.
Prayer: You are love; when we know you, it is crystal clear in the way we treat each other. Those who love you are giving, caring, kind, compassionate, merciful, and they crusade for justice and grace for all. Continue to fan the flames of your unconditional love in our hearts, minds, souls, and spirits. We ask this in the transforming name of the Christ, Jesus. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.